Chris and I have always loved taking one-night date trips to Atlanta, but we’ve never taken the kids to experience the “kid side” of Atlanta. We talk about it…we think about it…but we just don’t get around to it. So when the Georgia Aquarium contacted me and wanted to bring us for a visit so that we could give one of you a visit of your own, we were thrilled.

(Plus, it’s the end of the school year and we’re itching for any field trip excuses to count as a school day.)

(Even if they are on a Saturday. Because you know what? We didn’t do school on Thursday. Because I knew Saturday was coming.)

We zoomed out of town on a Friday afternoon as soon as Chris got home from work, but we just told the kids that we had a surprise weekend planned – the wonder and anticipation was thrilling for them.

Of course, the sunset would have to be fantastic when we were stuck in the car on the interstate. But I managed to get a picture anyway – at 70 mph through the sunroof.

140502b 70mph Sunset

Determination and Obsession go hand in hand.

Chris was kind enough to have pre-thought through where we would be at sunset and he had a plan to take me somewhere where I could capture it. He did very well.

140502 Villa Rica Georgia

We arrived at the hotel at 10:00pm Eastern Time (stupid losing of an hour), and the pool was open until 11. Chris was determined to start the surprises as soon as possible, so he rushed the kids into their bathing suits and took them down to the indoor pool.


Their weekend was already made.


We then ventured out onto the balcony to the heated outdoor pool. Where I stayed dry and enjoyed taking skyline shots,


And let him do the heavy lifting.


At 11pm, we took the kids back to our room in that “oh-my-gosh-I’m-so-cold-being-wet-in-the-air-conditioning” shuffle that I remember very well as a kid.


That night was actually the first time that all four of us had stayed in one hotel room – or one room of any kind – we’re total wusses when it comes to sleeping in the vicinity of our kids. But it went surprisingly well, especially since it was also the first time the kids had ever shared a bed.


Which was pretty darn cute.

The hotel, The Hilton Garden Inn, is adjacent to the Aquarium and had fantastic art along each hallway of different sea creatures that we would be seeing. On our way to breakfast, we told the kids the pictures were a hint as to where we were going, but being kids and therefore not the best detectives, they remained clueless. And really, a hotel stay was thrilling enough.

Hotel 2

Until they saw this.


I didn’t even realize that I dressed Noah to match the Tropical Exhibit, but I was proud of myself nonetheless.


The Ocean Voyager Exhibit was our favorite – it has an amazing underwater tunnel that you can ride through on a conveyor belt…which Noah found fascinating – and very helpful in doing the splits.


And most excitingly, it was the home to four Whale Sharks.


My kids squealed and called them by name immediately, because every stinking time we turn on “Go Diego Go,” it’s the Whale Shark episode. EVERY. TIME.

After going through the Tropical Diver and Ocean Voyager exhibits, we met an Aquarium Volunteer, Linda, for a behind-the-scenes tour.

For insatiably nosy people who are always analyzing how everything works like Chris and I, it was absolutely the best part of the day.


We got to see the surgical suite (I would say I was slightly disappointed that no whales had scheduled operations that day, but that’s not very nice to the whales,)


(But we did get to see some really cool x-rays,)


(Including a Penguin with a Stuck Egg, which totally reminded me of the feeling of being nine months pregnant,)


The underwater hospital,


The Analytical Chemistry lab, where they’re constantly monitoring the health of the water in each tank,


And we made it to the top of the Ocean Voyager exhibit just in time our favorites, the Whale Sharks, to get fed.


Linda was so fantastic to explain everything to the kids, showing them the food and explaining why the Whale Sharks ate such tiny morsels. She knew EVERYTHING.


It was mind-blowing to realize that we were above the gargantuan exhibits that we had just been inside – we were able to see the tunnel and pick out where the large aquarium wall was. We couldn’t see them and they couldn’t see us, but we were staring at the same Whale Shark as a whole bunch of people below us.


We then went to the top of the Tropical Divers Exhibit, where cliché-ishly enough, a diver was just surfacing. He had been feeding and checking on the animals below, which the kids found fantastic.


Ali found her favorite creature of the entire aquarium there – these tiny sharks,


(Noah’s favorite creature was this guy in the Pipe Room.)


I fancied these fantastically textured starfish,


And adorably bright frogs.


But once we got to go behind-the-scenes to the baby penguin nursery, all bets were off.


Baby Penguins win. Everything.


Linda kept my kid’s attention the entire time. I could really use her at home. A Behind-The-Scenes tour of the toy box would surely make them want to clean it, right??


After visiting several more exhibits, we went to the Dolphin Tales show, which was quite stunning in its grandeur. It was basically a Broadway play featuring fantastic Dolphin Tricks. Photography was hard in there, so it’s just something you’ll have to see for yourself.


And, as all family adventures should end, Noah didn’t move the entire way home.


So. Would you like an adventure like this?

The Georgia Aquarium gave me a four-pack of tickets (including the Dolphin Tales show), a behind-the-scenes tour, and a parking voucher that I would love to give it to one you!

All you have to do to enter is comment on this post – It’s that simple. The giveaway is open until Wednesday, May 28. The winner will be selected randomly and emailed, as well as announced on my Giveaway Winner’s Page.

Our trip was idyllic and I know yours will be as well, so good luck!

Disclosure: I was given a trip to the aquarium and a night’s stay in the hotel to be able to review the experience. No other compensation was given. All opinions are my own.

p.s. – If you don’t win, the Georgia Aquarium has a southern hospitality discount for residents of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and Florida until June 13. Just show your ID at the ticketing window and tell them that you want the Southern Hospitality Discount, and you’ll receive adult Total Tickets for $29.95 + tax.

131 thoughts on “Weekending at the Georgia Aquarium {And a Giveaway}

  1. OMG, my husband and I were just talking about wanting to take the kids. It looks awesome and we’ve never been. Hope we win!

  2. What a great giveaway….and awesome family trip! My daughter has been to the GA Aquarium before, but the rest of the family has not. It would be a great summer adventure for us :-)

  3. I am really concerned about that poor penguin with a stuck egg!! Yikes! Looks like a fun family trip. Would love to go!

  4. OOOH! That looks like so much fun. We’ve been wanting to go to the GA aquarium – hopefully we’ll win this contest. Thanks!

  5. Oooh I loved the aquarium the one time I went. I would love to go back. By the way those frogs are also deadly poisonous. Who doesn’t love baby penguins! I would love a chance to win the tickets…. Loved the sunset pictures too.

  6. How fun is that? What an exciting little family trip! We would especially enjoy the behind the sciences part!

  7. Awesome review of a trip that we have been talking about for years but never getting the “round-to-it”, to go. Please, please enter my family of four into this give-away.

  8. Rachel, you HAVE to pick me! This would be the perfet end of the year school treat for Jackson! Pretty, pretty please pick me!!!

  9. I would love to take my 4 year old to the Georgia Aquarium! The behind the scenes tour is an experience of a lifetime, I bet!

  10. We’ve been looking at going to that aquarium for a while. The behind the scenes looks awesome!

  11. Looks like such fun! We’ll have to take a trip over there soon.. We haven’t been to the Georgia Aquarium yet. And yes, Saturdays are total school days, if you do *anything* educational. Ahem.

  12. I’ve never been that far south in the States, and the road trip would be killer, but I think I could persuade my husband. He’s been bugging me to come up with some kind of summer plans.

  13. Rachel, oh my goodness I would HANDS DOWN LOVE TO WIN this!! It looks absolutely amazing and we could go while we take our trip this summer to Indiana and Illinois (I wouldn’t mind a side trip at all) :) thanks so much for offering this. Looks like you all had a fantastic time. Can’t believe that was the first time your kids have shared a bed. I know what you mean about being wusses when it comes to sharing a room with your kids. My husband and I are at my granny’s in NM and Jake has been sleeping near (if not with) us these last few nights but last night we put his pack and play in with my Granny and it was such a nice relief to not be sleeping in the same room with him. Lol. Thanks again for the opportunity to win.

  14. This would be awesome! I want to do the behind the scenes tour and see the baby penguins!!!

  15. WOW!! My family would go nuts if we won this! We have all been talking about going to Atlanta and that looks like a great attraction!

  16. You all look like you had such a fantastic time! The kid side of Atlanta can be really fun, especially if you experience it during the school year/school time. I think that’s one of the truly cool advantages of homeschooling. Thanks for another great post and as always, awesome pics.

  17. My kids love the aquarium. We did a girl scout overnight thing there last year and my daughter is dying to go back. It was awesome. They got to sleep in the big room with the floor to ceiling aquarium. Sounds like your trip was amazing :)

  18. Oh wow oh wow oh wow, I hope I win! Does extra enthusiasm give extra points, hee hee?! I’m going to be in SC/GA in three weeks for my brother’s wedding, and I’ve ALWAYS wanted to go to the Atlanta Aquarium. Hmm, I might just have to go anyway . .

    Great post!

  19. I nearly got my fool self bitten by one of those tiny sharks at the Aquarium of the Smokies. I was so geeked up about being able to touch a ray that I didn’t hear the announcer say that there were also sharks in the tank, and we should (of course) take our hands out of the water if they came around. Really freaked my super-cautious husband out.

  20. I have been to the aquarium a couple times and I have always wanted to do the behind the scenes tour! I would love to be entered to win and be able to share the experience with my little cousins! Thanks!!

  21. I love an aquarium! It’s been years since I’ve been to one. At this point Chattanooga is my fave, but I haven’t been to the one in Atlanta.

  22. Loved the aquarium in Chattanooga but wow didn’t realize Georgia was so big! Would love to go visit!

  23. Wow! What a fun family trip. We were just planning to take my son there for his birthday on June 11! That would be lucky to win! I hope whomever wins has a wonderful trip!

  24. Kali, Silas, Brandon and myself all need a little vacation, not to mention the behind the scenes tour of the aquarium…so cool!!

  25. Awesome! Atlanta is also our easy-to-drive-to-with-kids weekend getaway, but we haven’t been to the aquarium with both kids yet (we went when my son was little). I have always wondered if the behind-the-scenes are cool, and now I know! Thanks for the chance to win and experience it ourselves. :)

  26. Looks like y’all had a fantastic time! We have been wantin to go for a while now also and just never get around to it.

  27. We would love to do the behind-the-scenes tour! I love whalesharks, we swam with them in Mexico a few years back and it was the most incredible experience. I want to go back one day when my son is a little older and let him do it with us.

  28. My niece would love this (ok I use her as an excuse for everything that I actually want to do… but of course I would take her as one of the plus 1s.). :P

  29. I would love the behind the scenes tour! And I might be persuaded to let my husband and kids tag along!

  30. Question… when does it have to be used by? and is the offer to come visit still open? :)
    cus if its open ended for say… about ten-ish months, and the offer is still open then.. yep. im commenting!! I can only imagine how much ryan and tendai would LOVE this…. :)

  31. Looks like a great trip. We love aquariums and have talked about going there. The behind the scenes tour looks very good! You do such interesting things with your family.!

  32. So glad you did a post on the Atlanta aquarium! We’re getting ready to make an Atlanta trip in June and I was wondering if it would be a good side trip. The behind the scene tour sounds really fun! If course, winning tix would be great!

  33. Wow! Looks like you all had tons of fun. We too have been talking about scheduling an Atlanta family fun weekend for quite a while, and the Aquarium is at the top of our list. And a behind the scenes tour sounds awesome.

  34. I had no clue behind the scenes tours were available! And yay for mommy/daddy bonus point for late night swimming. We’ve done that recently and the boys thought we were the coolest parents…for at least a few minutes! ;)

  35. So much fun! I went to the Georgia Aquarium years ago, when I had just one kid. Now, we have three. I would love to visit again.

  36. Long time reader, I have just never posted! haha The kiddos would love a special weekend trip like this! Fingers crossed!!!!

  37. This would be an awesome trip! I have never been to Georgia and what an adventure this seems to be!

  38. We’ve actually been talking about trying out the Atlanta Aquarium this summer. Our 4 year old loves the ones in Gatlinburg and Chattanooga.

  39. That looks like so much fun! That’s one of those things that we keep talking about doing but just don’t seem to ever get around to it. I guess if we won tickets we wouldn’t really have an excuse anymore:)

  40. What a fun trip! We went to the aquarium after our honeymoon (almost 8 years ago), but haven’t taken the kids there yet. Would love to go back soon!

  41. I love aquariums but it’s just not something we can afford to do right now….as lose as I I’ve to Georgia we have never been and that would be nice to. My daughter starts kindergarten this year and it would be an awesome “graduation” present for her from daycare.

  42. Love,, love, love the aquarium!! I’m a scuba diver and any chance I can be underwater (whether actually or in an aquarium tube) is heavenly…

    So glad you had the experience.

  43. It sounds like a fantastic weekend! We have an aquarium nearby in Virginia Beach, but it’s not nearly as large as the Georgia Aquarium. So fun!

  44. Oh me, me, me. Life won’t be complete until I see baby, I mean, take the kids to the aquarium! Fingers and toes crossed that I win. Good to know about the discounted tickets!

  45. Looks like yall had a blast. We are actually planning our summertime trip (working around school this is the only time we can do it :-) ) and this would be great. we have been wanting to go since they opened just haven’t had the chance or the money. oh and have I mentioned my son LOVES PENGUINS his bed is over half cover with stuffed penguins as I type.

  46. Ooooh my, I’ve been wanting to go to the Georgia Aquarium for a while…we were at the Texas State Aquarium this weekend, but they don’t have those WHALE SHARKS! They’re my third favorite shark. Gahh, this is SO AWESOME.

  47. We would love to take our kids to Atlanta for one last little family trip before our oldest goes off to college (sniff, sniff)!

  48. Oooo, Oooo, me me me! We’ve been to the Shedd Aquarium and the Monterey Bay Aquarium (the best one I’ve ever been to, btw), but we’d love to visit this one!

  49. What an awesome experience! I just told my husband a couple of weeks ago that we really needed to plan a weekend trip to Atlanta. We live so close, yet have never been to the Georgia Aquarium.

  50. This is an awesome giveaway! And amen to looking for any field trip that could count as a school day at this point in the year. :)

  51. Oh I would love to take my 7 year old daughter here. It’s not a terrible drive from Orlando and we’ve been looking for an excuse to visit Georgia

  52. We are headed to GA for our vacation later this year! And we love aquariums! I think it’s a match made in heaven! Lol

  53. This would be a great family trip! It looks like y’all had a great time. We would love to win!

  54. Oh I could totally take the family when we visit in June if I win!!! This place looks amazing! We may have to squeeze it into our trip either way! This would be a fun thing for our families to do together the night before we fly out, but you guys probably wouldn’t want to do it again so soon.

    P.S. Loved all the pictures, especially the kids sleeping!

  55. Yes, I’m aware that my kids are pretty young, and may or may not enjoy the aquarium at this time, but let’s face it – Mommy and Daddy would love a trip ANYWHERE! And of course the kids can come along. I would love to see the whale sharks, and the baby penguins. It might even make me feel like I was at the beach. Or something like that. So pick me!

  56. wow – what I wouldn’t give to see my youngest crash like yours did ;). We have talked about heading over to the Georgia Aquarium and with all your sharing I think we will have to make it happen.

  57. I would love to win this, my son is about to have his 2nd birthday and I would love to take him there. Thanks for the chance!

  58. This would be an amazing getaway to take my 4 kids to. My 6 year old especially loves all creatures that live in the ocean. His latest obsession has been sharks, whales, and dolphins.

  59. WOW! I just found your blog during a search about Thirty-One bags and imagine my surprise when I saw your header for Homeschool! We’re a homeschooling family too! We have a 17 yr old son, 9 yr old daughter & 7 yr old son and now would be a great time for some fun after the crazy year we’ve had! I loved your tour of the GA Aquarium and would LOVE to win this giveaway!

  60. I am in the midst of planning our girls a surprise birthday trip to the Georgia Aquarium in August!! Winning would just be perfect!! My oldest has been BEGGING to go…….and begs even more after we watch Jeff Corwin’s Ocean Mysteries on Saturday mornings! I can hardly contain my excitement with planning this trip :-)

  61. This would be a great pkg to win! I love the whale shark watching room and I think a behind the scenes tour would be a blast. Our kids have never been and this would be a great way to introduce them.

  62. I would LOVE to take my little ones to the Aquarium. My husband were just talking about taking a trip up to Atlanta this past week!

  63. This looks & sounds like an absolute blast! My step kids will be with us the entire summer so this would be such a fun activity to go do! Great family time!!!

  64. Oh my gosh what a blessing this would be to win this!!!! Thank you soooo much for the chance!!!! My children and husband and I would really love this! We live near Augusta so not very far.. Hoping and praying we win. Thanks again for the chance. Be blessed,

  65. I’ve heard great things about this aquarium, I would love to take my son one day. Looks like y’all had a blast!

  66. I’m jealous! We’ve been wanting to go see those whale sharks forever. Looks like a great place :)

  67. Oh wow! Looks like you had a ton of fun! I would love to take my boys to this aquarium, this is an awesome giveaway!

  68. I would love the opportunity to take my boys to the Ga Aquarium. Now that summer is out, keeping them focused and engages is important. The aquarium has so much to offer and we have never been before. Thank you for all you do to bring deals to your readers!

  69. I’m new to your blog. Your sunset pictures on twitter are beautiful! I follow James Spann and now you :)

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